|Schauwecker's Japan Travel Blog|
by Stefan Schauwecker, webmaster of japan-guide.com
This blog is intended to record some of my travel activities in Japan.
2011/03/28 - Cherry Blossom Report: Himeji
March 28, 2011 - about to open
Generally considered the best surviving original castle in Japan, Himeji Castle, is currently and for another four years undergoing extensive renovation works to its roof and walls. Consequently, the entire main castle keep is covered up by a huge scaffold structure.
According to the Weather Association, cherry blossoms around the castle are forecast to start opening from tomorrow. Indeed, I was not able to discover a single open blossom among the hundreds of somei yoshino cherry trees on the castle grounds today.
Many trees, while quite advanced, did not look like they would start opening from tomorrow, but rather would require another two or three days. In any case, full bloom is likely to be reached sometime next week.
I did not come to Himeji for photos of a covered up castle and cherry buds alone. I made the trip with the additional purpose of checking out the new observation deck which opened in the scaffold structure two days ago, allowing tourists to observe the renovation works.
Due to the limited capacity of the observation deck, waiting times should be expected on busy days, especially on weekends and during the cherry blossom season. In order to reduce waiting times, note that it is possible to make advance reservations for specific time slots over the internet. Today, on a regular Monday, waiting times were minimal.
Not only was the observation deck newly opened two days ago, but also the interior of the castle keep was partially re-opened after a one-year closure. Currently, it is possible to view the lower three of the castle's six floors from the inside. Depending on the state of renovation works, more or fewer floors (sometimes none) will be open to tourists over the coming three years.
Only a limited number of visitors are allowed into the castle keep at one time, which can again result in waiting times, especially on weekends. No advance reservations are possible here.